Elements of Physical Biology

Elements of Physical Biology ns
Title page to Alfred Lotka's 1925 book Elements of Physical Biology, the first book to apply thermodynamics to interspecies interactions.
In famous publications, Elements of Physical Biology is a 1925 highly-cited book, by Austrian-born American physical chemist Alfred Lotka, which was the first book to make an attempt at a rigorous application of the logic of thermodynamics, e.g. irreversibility, chemical equilibrium, transformations, etc., to the energy interactions and dynamics of animals and plants in whole ecosystems, rather than by studying them individually (or internally), concluding with chapters on the origins and energy relations of consciousness. The following is a representative quote: [1]

Evolution being a slow process, it takes a certain time, when equilibrium or near-equilibrium is disturbed, for a new equilibrium or near-equilibrium to become established.”

This view, to note, is in stark contrast to the post-1970s idiom that evolution exists continuously in a far-from-equilibrium state of existence, as advocated by Belgian chemist Ilya Prigogine; a view that only recently has come to be questioned, in the mid 2000s.

Lotka's book is divided into four parts: general principles, kinetics, statics, and dynamics, the latter of which is devoted to thermodynamics. Lotka states that the outline of the book has appeared in various article publications beginning in 1907 and that, in origin, the first plan of the work was laid out in about 1902 during his student days in Leipzig. A precursor to Lotka’s book is the earlier work of English biologist James Johnstone, particularly his 1921 The Mechanism of Life in Relation to Modern Physical Theory, which Lotka cites.

Concepts developed in the book include defining biological entities as ‘energy transformers’ and the logic that visual inputs can act to produce a ‘trigger action’, such as when prey sights predator and flees, which amounts in the act of huge release of energy. [2]

1. Lotka, Alfred J. (1925). Elements of Physical Biology (republished (Ѻ) as: Elements of Mathematical Biology, which includes: corrections from Lotka’s notes and a completed list of his publications) (pdf) (Ѻ) (txt). (thermodynamics, 21+ pgs; evolution equilibrium quote, pg. 23; Julius Davidson, pgs. 304, 356). Dover, 1956.
2. (a) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One) (trigger action, 6+ pgs). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.

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